Toronto’s skyline has transformed dramatically in the last decade, and while condo starts may be at a slight decline in 2015, the building boom shows no signs of stopping soon. One of the most oft-cited concerns with regards to the city’s development industry is the lack of units geared towards families and other shared affordable living arrangements.
At first glance, the Block 32 development by KPMB looks similar to other new buildings in Toronto's downtown Fort York location, but the objective of this project completed for Toronto's Community Housing (Canada’s largest social housing provider) was, as described by the architects, to build "a living environment that fosters social interaction and community building.”
Remarkably, unlike most high-density urban developments, around half of the building’s 428 units have three or more bedrooms.
While the 35 story tower takes advantage of the economies of glass curtain wall construction and precast concrete assemblies to wrap the exterior like other new builds, it’s KPMB’s approach to unit configuration - particularly in the 8 story podium - that really set the development apart.
Beginning at street-level with townhouse-style residences, each unit in the Block 32’s podium is two stories high. In order to achieve this, elevators only stop on every other floor, making for less lost space to common hallways, and additional space for living areas and amenities.
Furthermore, the public areas, which occupy 7,300 square metres of the 45,500 square metre development, are punctuated by boldly coloured stairways and detailing, which offer high visual impact without costly finishes. The podiums are topped off with private residence courtyards along with a large space dedicated to urban agriculture.
This project demonstrates that the quality of living spaces is closely tied to consideration rather than extravagance. Block 32 has hit 100% occupancy rates since its completion in 2013; and while this has a lot to do with the affordability of the rental units, it also makes a strong case for the demand and desirability for a wider array of dwelling sizes within downtown developments.
As a community housing project, Block 32 was able to introduce a solution that veers from the typical high rises that surrounds it, towards a typology that could prove advantageous to commercial developers in a property market increasingly saturated with studio and one bedroom suites.
Visit KPMB to learn more about their firm, and their on-going projects.
All photographs courtesy of Maris Mezulis
Researched and written by Miranda Corcoran, an Industrial Design and Digital Media student at OCAD University.